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How Sony's PlayStation 4 will leverage Gaikai's cloud
How Sony's PlayStation 4 will leverage Gaikai's cloud
February 20, 2013 | By Kris Graft

We knew that Gaikai would be a key part of PlayStation's future when Sony bought the streaming video game company for $380 million this year.

Now we have an idea of how Sony's just-announced PlayStation 4 will leverage the cloud.

Dave Perry, game industry veteran and CEO of Gaikai, said the cloud technology will be used for everything from demos to localized cloud gaming to facilitating backward compatibility for older titles.

Storefront streaming

For one, the PlayStation store will use streaming tech so players can jump into a game instantly with the push of a button. The way cloud games work is that the actual game is hosted on a distant server -- not downloaded onto a local device like the PS4.

"Try for free, share it if you like, pay only for the games you fall in love with," Perry said.

He also stressed all kinds of social functionality. Partnerships with Facebook and Ustream will allow players to share content with one another.

Spectating and sharing

More interesting is how Gaikai will facilitate not just playing, but spectating between players. Players will use the share button on the new DualShock 4 controller to broadcast in real-time to friends. Friends can also interact with you while playing, and they can post comments to their screen, for example.

Perry also said PS4 players will be able to virtually hand a controller over to a friend over the PlayStation Network, allowing that friend take over gameplay.

It's that social aspect that was a theme during Sony's whole event tonight -- the company wanted to make clear that the new hardware is intended to facilitate social interaction between users of PlayStation products.

Remote Play and the second screen

Gaikai's tech will also be used for the second screen experience. The PS4 will be able to become essentially a game server with Remote Play, and the handheld PS Vita a client for games, as well as other media such as music and movies.

Perry said the long term goal is to make every PS4 title playable on the Vita. He and game industry veteran Mark Cerny showed a real-time demo of the PS4 to Vita second screen functionality.

Backwards compatibility

Finally, Gaikai and Sony are working to make the PS4 backward-compatible with older PlayStation games. PS3 titles are not natively supported by PS4 hardware, but cloud technology can allow remotely-stored PS3 games to be played on PS4.

Long-term Perry said Sony wants to put PlayStation 1, 2, 3 and PlayStation Mobile titles in the cloud so players can play them on Vita and PS4. "This would fundamentally change the concept of longevity," Perry said.

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John Flush
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Thoughts on each:

Store streaming - Interesting. A feature I might use.

Spectating / Sharing - Nope. Wasted feature.

Remote Play and the second screen - I like this idea. I really do. It was something I hoped the Wii U could have done. However, I don't want to play the game I already have on my TV on my Vita - unless of course now it is portable. I own my TV. I won't get kicked off of it, ever. I don't see who this is marketing to other than teenagers and kids. Parents shouldn't have the problem anymore... who doesn't have multiple TV's?

Backwards (and forwards) compatibility: I want to like this idea. But it is just OnLive all over again. That didn't turn out so well. I don't want always connected games. I want always available games. I would have figured by now emulators would give us this feature... the PC already does it.

Bob Johnson
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@remote play/second screen - Yes the feature appeals to kids/families. But it also appeals to those with significant others who want to play game while their SO watches tv. It also would seem to have appeal to the single person who wants to keep gaming while also watching some tv during a basketball game or presidential address or reality tv show for example. btw the Wii U does do remote play on the controller.

AGree with you on the rest. I would have to see it to believe it to believe that the experience of playing a game streamed over the internet works latency-free. And personally wouldn't make use of sharing/spectating. I'm just way too old for that. That feature it more teen oriented that remote play btw. STore streaming is also just OnLive gameplay which means demos probably will be too laggy. Again would have to see it working as my experience with OnLive was so close yet so far.

Jeremy Parsons
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I kind of see Remote Play & 2nd screen as the one I probably won't get much use out of. I don't have much need to really ever kick the PS3 off the tv, it's pretty much always hooked up to my personal computer monitor to begin with, so it's never fighting with anyone but myself.

I'm really interested in the spectating option, though. Not really as an "I want to be a PSN celebrity," but I think it's a potentially interesting spin on cross-game chat. It also answers the question of "hey friend, what's that game like?" I also like that the share functionality is built-in, hopefully negating the need for external recording devices if you ever have the itch to save video, not to mention being able to not have to worry about wishing you had the recorder running because something cool just happened.

Backwards compatibility, I really hope that works. I wouldn't expect the latency to provide an enjoyable experience for a competitive multiplayer game or anything, but I'm sure there's plenty of games that would be fine with slightly delayed input. Wouldn't really ever need it until the current PS3 died anyway.

Store streaming should be nice. I'd honestly probably check out more demos than I do now. It's such a hassle to download hundreds/thousands of megs of data, then install it before playing, and then delete it after. Would be nice to just jump right into it and see what it's like.

John Flush
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@Bob - Yeah I know the Wii U can use it for the main screen. I was referring more to the 'remote play'. Remote to me signifies out of the house. It sounds like the Vita can take the games out of the house and is more than just a small screen of the same game, stuck in the same house.

@Jeremy - "It also answers the question of "hey friend, what's that game like?"" - don't get me wrong that that use to be answered by bringing the game over to ones house and showing them. Maybe more convenient now I guess. I did like the idea of 'killing' demos. usually nothing more than a time sink to the development process but even then fine tuning these will always give an advantage.

@Everyone - I'm surprised that the industry hasn't figured out that Backward compatibility isn't to lock in people that already had the previous system. It is to lock in everyone that avoided your system because they already had a different one. Sony was in a perfect spot for this. They have a lot more exclusives with the PS3 than the X360, but a lot more people (in the USA that is) that have an X360. It would have been an easy sell to have the PS4 be the 'next choice' to open up the library to those that missed out. Instead the industry expects me to go find an PS3 and then try and find all the games I wanted that I doubt I can even find anymore - or turn to the use used market (gasp!)

David Bray
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What they actually said was we want to explore the idea and eventually be able to bring you backwards compatibility.

My personal belief is this will never happen.

While some games work the majority will never handle the control lag which is a problem they will never fully solve. Can you imagine playing god a of war with a half second delay between button press and response.

Cleverly worded empty promises.

Bob Johnson
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Exactly. They might do a few games. But is mostly about reassuring you in order to get you to purchase if B/C is a concern. They know once you get the console that B/C needs will fade away. Plus yes the lag of OnLive makes me think is just won't work good enough.

Leon T
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So does this mean that instead of being able to download games I can only stream them? I hope that is not the case. Same goes for backwards compatibility.

The Wii U alone and with 3DS as well as the PS3/Vita can already do remote play and second screen so of course they will carry it over. I thought Sony would use the streaming tech to let you play PS4 games from anywhere if you wanted to and any device you wanted to play it from.

Ian Fisch
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Obvious question:

If streaming a game is supposed to be as good as playing it natively, then why do I need to buy a PS4 at all?

Since Sony will probably lose money on hardware sales, why not just let users stream PS4 games to their PS3?

Amir Sharar
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There will need to be hardware to act as the server and going in that direction would be far more expensive than streaming PS3 content onto a PS4. Secondly, PS4 games will likely require the included new Eyetoy, which is something you'll need people to grab for their PS3s (along with the new controller). So to get PS4-to-PS3 streaming there are some barriers there that would have to be dealt with.

Gene L
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Games are streamed as they're downloaded, so these games aren't stream-only. There might simply be memory limitations with the PS3, it's a pretty old machine.

Amir Sharar
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My only question is whether or not much of these features will have to be unlocked with a subscription to PS Plus.

Although the following statement won't make me popular, I think it would be a good idea for Sony to use some of these features as part of the value proposition of PS Plus. We've seen something similar with Bungie Pro, and so a similarly tiered system (where users can freely upload video, but are capped at, say, an hours worth of footage a month unless they pay extra) could be feasible.

And it goes without saying that so much of this rides on how latency free this all turns out.

Jonathan Murphy
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The walls are bleeding! It's the END! WAHHH! Cough...

Ok here's my complaint about the abusive nature of consoles and b/c. I have to buy games I spent hundreds of dollars on, again. After another new console comes out I may have to buy those games again. I have to worry games getting locked away like Golden Eye, Bionic Commando, and Earthbound. I have to wait years to pay to rebuy Chrono Trigger. I have to worry the games will be taken down because another company bought the rights, Ninja Turtles Arcade, Double Dragon. A real solution is welcomed for all game consoles. PC never looked so pretty.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Bob Johnson
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lol. Wow didn't know Sony was that powerful.

Jeremy Reaban
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Especially too as the build quality of modern consoles isn't that great. I have a bunch of PS1 games. Can I play them on my PS1? No, because the cd drive is broken.

I have a bunch of PS2 games. Can I play them on the PS2s I own? My PS2 slim is still holding up, but my original PS2's dvd drive gave out.

Meanwhile my old cartridge based systems work fine. Except the GBA which my dogs used as a chew toy. It still boots, but half the screen is broken.

Ironically, the only hope for BC is eventually the PC. Maybe not soon, but someday someone will write a PS3 emulator.

Jonathan Murphy
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The consoles have divisions, deep legal divisions that keep us from playing Earthbound, Golden Eye, Turok. This problem isn't exclusive to games. But it's the most frustrating because new consoles come out every 3-10 years. Console hardware dies every 5-10 years. After being alive for a few decades you end up in my situation. I own hundreds of games, and over 10 consoles. I'd like one thing that can play all the games I own, or at least half. The only thing that makes that possible is PC emulation. Pirating, hacking shouldn't be solutions to something you already own.